McCORDSVILLE — Republican voters have four candidates to choose from for two town council seats in a quickly growing part of Hancock County.
Incumbents Chad Gooding and Tom Strayer are running to keep their at-large positions on McCordsville Town Council. Bryan Burney, who represented the council’s District 2 from 2016 through 2019, plans a return. Political newcomer Scott Jones vies for a spot as well.
Burney, a residential developer and retired physician, served a term on the council but lost his re-election bid to Greg Brewer.
“I found it fascinating, and captivating and interesting and wish to get back into it,” he said.
He never really stopped working for the town, he said, recalling how even after leaving office he advocated for tunneling Mt. Comfort Road under the railroad tracks that cross through McCordsville as a solution for traffic challenges, a plan the town has since decided to pursue.
And speaking of those tracks, Burney worked with county and town governments to correct a taxing error on land the railroad owns in McCordsville resulting in about $10,000 a year to the town.
The longtime McCordsville resident points to his background of leadership roles he’s held in his medical career and homeowners association, as well as his current profession as a residential developer.
“The town is being overrun with development of production homes who are running the table on McCordsville and just overwhelming the ability of staff and town council to make reasonable considerations,” Burney said.
He said if he’s elected, he would advocate for developers to pay a fairer share of costs that would otherwise be paid by taxpayers. Burney wants developers to contribute more toward needs like police and fire departments, a library, the railroad underpass and what he feels will soon be the need for another sewer plant expansion.
He’d also press for more enforcement of building codes when the town considers planned unit developments, an avenue builders often take that establishes specific standards for a project that vary from existing town rules.
“We have a good ordinance,” Burney said. “Why do we need to bend it when we want it to look nice?”
Burney would also like to see a second monthly town council meeting added to allow for meaningful discussions between officials and residents. He said there’s little time for that at the council’s current once-a-month meetings, which often require several hours to handle town business. Streaming public meetings online is also among his goals.
Another objective for Burney is to establish a permitting process for special events that would call for organizers to coordinate with the town’s police department.
Gooding, who has served on McCordsville’s architectural review committee and continues to serve on its plan commission, won a Republican caucus to fill an opening left by Barry Wood when he stepped down from the council at the end of 2021 with a year left in his term.
“I’ve enjoyed my time on it so far, and I can see the importance of it,” Gooding said. “There’s a lot of big decisions that are going to have to be made in the next couple of years that’ll really affect the town long term, and a lot of that has to do with what projects get developed, how much residential gets developed, how does town center look, how much annexation can happen, and those decisions made will impact the long-term finances of the town.”
McCordsville’s town center project consists of plans for commercial, residential and municipal uses as well as outdoor amenities east of Mt. Comfort Road between Broadway and County Road 750N.
Gooding said if he’s elected, he wants to make sure decisions are made in a disciplined way, specifically related to development, growth and uses of resources for public safety.
“We’re lucky that residents, businesses want to be here,” he said. “And we need to save any abatements, or incentives or any of this stuff to lure the most attractive businesses here, and not spend those on less impactful developments and businesses that would be here regardless.”
He thinks officials are already taking that disciplined approach.
“I’m really encouraged, as a resident, watching and experiencing how much the residents’ opinions matter, and really try to impact their lives for the positive and not anything that’s going to negatively impact them,” he said. “It’s kind of a blessing to be able to develop these neighborhoods, especially the ones around town center, with the right kind of housing and density while still trying to protect existing neighborhoods and values and not bring in the wrong types of properties.”
Jones has lived in McCordsville for about eight years and resides in the Woodhaven neighborhood on the town’s south side. He’s also excited for developments like the town center.
“I’m a little uneasy about some of the industrial stuff that’s been built so close to neighborhoods,” he added.
Southwark Metal Manufacturing recently developed a new building east of Mt. Comfort Road and south of County Road 600N. To the north of it, Al. Neyer, a Cincinnati-based developer, is building a speculative warehouse that will be over 1 million square feet. Both properties are just south of Woodhaven.
Jones said a couple of his good friends have moved out of the neighborhood because of the noise, traffic and effects to property values they expect from the industrial developments, and he worries what the companies occupying the buildings will do when the properties’ tax breaks roll off.
“I care very much what happens,” he said. “As McCordsville grows, and I know it’s going to, I want to keep a small-town feel to it.”
Jones owns several small businesses, including IT company Speedstream Technology Partners, through which he writes contracts and manages optical fiber installation infrastructure for AT&T.
“I know start-to-finish how to build a company,” he said. “I think towns need to be run the same way from a fiscal-responsibility standpoint.”
That management also requires taking into account the thoughts and feelings of residents, he said.
“I want to very much make sure that they’re happy because if no one’s happy living in a town, what’s the point of the growth?” Jones said.
Another important aspect, he continued, is balancing the rights of landowners to do what they want with their land with the need to foster development projects providing long-term financial benefits to the town.
Strayer was first appointed to fill a vacancy on the town council in 2003 and has been re-elected ever since. He’s currently the council’s president and also serves on the town’s public works committee, plan commission, architectural review committee and town center approval board. He’s held other committee and board posts over the years as well.
“Just as when I first ran for election in 2003, McCordsville is in a critical time where growth in surrounding communities is pressuring our town to grow at a faster rate than might be sustainable,” Strayer said in an email. “Almost 20 years ago, as an architect, I felt the need to use my planning background to help define what our town needed to be, rather than just let uncontrolled growth happen to us.”
Town leadership and staff have put standards and expectations in place for that growth, he continued, which are intended to enhance the town’s livability while keeping a balanced tax base and low tax rates.
“But even though processes are in place, town leadership needs to assure they are followed and amended as needed,” Strayer added.
Looking back on his time in office, he said he’s thankful for the way council members have worked together and how town staff has worked to balance sustainable growth with effective governance.
“Through conservative spending, the town has remained financially stable with low tax rates, even through the many difficulties our country, state and region have faced over the last 15 years,” he said.
Strayer is also grateful for the start of more commercial growth in town, like Meijer, and how after years of preparation town center is starting to come to fruition through a partnership with a developer that limits the town’s financial input while maintaining its development standards.
If re-elected, he’d work to continue to manage sustainable growth and diversify the town’s tax base, he said, along with continuing town center and resolving the traffic challenges with the railroad tracks.
“We will have increasing pressure to control municipal spending and facilities as we grow, and the town leadership needs to focus on more effective delivery of services and infrastructure as new technology opportunities become available,” Strayer said.
Democrats Linda Robinson and Andrea Yovanovich are also running for the two town council seats, and will face the Republican winners in the general election in November.